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Edmonton

Gateway to the North

The northernmost major city in Canada, Edmonton began as a Hudson's Bay Company trading post in the mid-19th Century and soon became the central trading hub for the surrounding region. In 1891 a railway branch line was extended north from Calgary to the city, causing a population boom. When Alberta became a province in the Canadian Confederation in 1905, Edmonton's central location in the province contributed to the choice to make it the new provincial capital. Edmonton continued to grow, and by the 1930s it was the largest city in the province, a title it would hold until the 1980s. In addition to being the political capital, Edmonton is today home to a number of cultural institutions like the Royal Alberta Museum, and a wide range of heritage buildings, including the historic neighbourhood of Strathcona on the south side of the river.

Historic Walking Tours


Then and Now Photos

Sketch of the Fort Sketch of the Fort

Edmonton Archives EA-10-3249 & On This Spot Enterprises

Sketch of the Fort - 1846

An early sketch of Fort Edmonton made by Paul Kane of the fort shortly after it was relocated to this spot on the high ground overlooking the North Saskatchewan River. Notice the First Nations teepees on the right.

Looking Up River Looking Up River

Library and Archives Canada 3264505 & On This Spot Enterprises

Looking Up River - 1879

One of the first photos of what would become the Edmonton area, this photo shows the grasslands and prarie that Edmonton once was.

Edmonton's First School Edmonton's First School

Library and Archives Canada 3194031 & On This Spot Enterprises

Edmonton's First School - 1896

Edmonton's first school was built in 1881. This photo from 1896 shows one of the classes from the small school house.

First Nations on Jasper First Nations on Jasper

Edmonton Archives EA-10-169 & On This Spot Enterprises

First Nations on Jasper - 1898

A group of First Nations people in their traditional garb pose for a photo on Jasper Ave alongside a white man named Jim Delaney.

Stores on Whyte Stores on Whyte

Alberta Archives A11938 & On This Spot Enterprises

Stores on Whyte - 1901

An early shot of the south side of Whyte Ave shows a group of people and wagons milling about on the street. None of these old storefronts have survived to the present.

Finishing the Line Finishing the Line

Edmonton Archives EA-10-2289 & On This Spot Enterprises

Finishing the Line - 1905

A crowd of people excitedly gather to watch a Canadian National Railway track-laying machine lay the last few metres of track to Edmonton's new downtown railway station. You can see on the right the ties have been laid out awaiting track.

Canadian Mounted Rifles Canadian Mounted Rifles

Edmonton Archives EA-10-2712 & On This Spot Enterprises

Canadian Mounted Rifles - 1906

Men and women are dressed up for a social event held by the Canadian Mounted Rifles, who had served in South Africa in the Boer War a few years before. Today this is a golf course.

Post Office Burns Post Office Burns

Edmonton Archives EA-10-637 & On This Spot Enterprises

Post Office Burns - 1907

Excited crowds watch as firefighters attempt to put out a fire that is engulfing the post office (and the reason this building is no longer there today). Notice at right the ladders of the firefighters bravely ascending into the flames.

Chinese Welcoming Arch Chinese Welcoming Arch

Edmonton Archives EA-10-823 & On This Spot Enterprises

Chinese Welcoming Arch - 1909

A streetcar passes under an arch erected over Jasper Ave on the occasion of Earl Grey's visit to Edmonton. This particular arch was constructed by the Chinese community as a display of loyalty to the British Empire, and the text at top reads "Tell King Edward we are his loyal subjects."

Saskatchewan Drive Saskatchewan Drive

Edmonton Archives EA-10-264 & On This Spot Enterprises

Saskatchewan Drive - 1910

Looking down a quiet, unpaved and tree-lined Saskatchewan Drive over a century ago.

Building 105 St. Bridge Building 105 St. Bridge

Edmonton Archives EA-10-1120 & On This Spot Enterprises

Building 105 St. Bridge - 1912

A side view of the piers of the 105 Street Bridge under construction with the legislature in the background.

Streetcar on Whyte Streetcar on Whyte

Edmonton Archives EA-10-277 & On This Spot Enterprises

Streetcar on Whyte - 1913

Whyte Avenue looks comparatively quieter in this photo than it does today, though that would soon change as cars would soon become the primary mode of transportation in Edmonton, and the streetcars would eventually be phased out.

Jasper Ave Jasper Ave

Edmonton Archives EA-10-2721 & On This Spot Enterprises

Jasper Ave - 1913

Looking west we can see the streetcar that once ran up and down Jasper Ave. Streetcars were a popular form of transportation in Canada and the United States in the early 1900s.

Government House Government House

Edmonton Archives EA-10-2519 & On This Spot Enterprises

Government House - 1913

Officials standing on the steps of Government House, which was then the official residence of the Lieutenant-Governors of Alberta.

Busy Jasper Day Busy Jasper Day

Library and Archives Canada 3587667 & On This Spot Enterprises

Busy Jasper Day - 1914

Streetcars, automobiles, horse-drawn wagons and people all go about their days on a dusty summer day on Jasper Ave.

Imperial Bank of Canada Imperial Bank of Canada

Edmonton Archives EA-10-282 & On This Spot Enterprises

Imperial Bank of Canada - 1914

People hustle past the imposing facade of the Imperial Bank on Jasper Ave, once located on this corner. You'll notice at left the ongoing steel-girder construction of the Mcleod Block which survives today.

Recruiting Parade Recruiting Parade

Library and Archives Canada 3403440 & On This Spot Enterprises

Recruiting Parade - 1915

A military band marches past the Royal George Hotel in an attempt to aggressively market the army to potential recruits during the First World War. Parades like this were a common tactic during the war to rouse patriotic fervor in onlookers and get them to recruit, or encourage their loved ones to.

Ice Sculpture Ice Sculpture

Edmonton Archives https://cityarchives.edmonton.ca/ice-carnival-edmonton-ice-statue & On This Spot Enterprises

Ice Sculpture - 1915

This giant ice sculpture was created for the Ice Carnival in Edmonton. With all of the ice and snow through long winters Edmontonians made the most of the sub-zero temperatures.

Fire Hall No. 2 Fire Hall No. 2

Edmonton Archives EA-10-1003 & On This Spot Enterprises

Fire Hall No. 2 - 1920

Posing with their fire engines, the fire department of firehall no. 2 was proud of their hall. Fires were a frequent threat on the prairies with the dry weather and wooden structures.

Medical Buildings Medical Buildings

Library and Archives Canada 3302951 & On This Spot Enterprises

Medical Buildings - 1925

This photo shows the recently completed medical faculty buildings of the University of Alberta.

Canada's 60th Birthday Canada's 60th Birthday

Edmonton Archives EA-10-3061 & On This Spot Enterprises

Canada's 60th Birthday - 1927

Celebrating Canada's sixtieth birthday in 1927 Edmontonians gathered in the river valley.

Lawn Bowling Lawn Bowling

Edmonton Archives EA-10-2297 & On This Spot Enterprises

Lawn Bowling - 1930

The Legislature grounds have long been a place for community activites and public enjoyment. Yard games, like the lawn bowing you see here, were a popular past time in the 1930s.

The MacDonald Hotel The MacDonald Hotel

Edmonton Archives EA-10-607 & On This Spot Enterprises

The MacDonald Hotel - 1950

As the city of Edmonton grew the MacDonald Hotel became a central part of downtown. Towering over the river valley the hotel was one of the first features of the Edmonton skyline.

Rafting on the North Saskatchewan Rafting on the North Saskatchewan

Library and Archives Canada 3335008 & On This Spot Enterprises

Rafting on the North Saskatchewan - 1914-1925

Lumber mills were big business in Edmonton in the early to mid 1900s. This photo shows a process called 'rafting' getting the logs ready for transport and lumber use. The Walterdale bridge in the background was built to accomodate traffic across the river along with the High Level Bridge.

The Alexandra School The Alexandra School

Edmonton Archives EA-10-3052 & On This Spot Enterprises

The Alexandra School - ca. 1890s

Named for King Edward VII's wife Alexandra, the Queen Alexandra School was built in 1906 and represents a style typical of turn of the century public buildings.


These photos and tours are possible through the generous support of our partners.

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